16 May 2017
The chief constable in charge of roads policing has pledged to work closely with the Police Federation to get better protection for trained police drivers.
Chief Constable Anthony Bangham of West Mercia Police and lead on roads policing for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, spoke at our conference in Birmingham today, alongside lawyer Mark Aldred, Merseyside officer James Ellerton and PFEW lead on pursuits Tim Rogers.
The panel discussed the lack of protection within the law for officers who engage in pursuit or response drives. The current legislation holds drivers, no matter their training, to the same standard as a ‘careful and competent driver’, meaning that those engaging in a response or pursuit are vulnerable to a prosecution charge of dangerous or careless driving.
CC Bangham gave his firm commitment to working with the Federation to ensure that police drivers get the best training and agreed that pursuit drivers needed better protection. He said: “There’s a possibility of a law change, but it will take a long time. The DPP guidance needs to be changed to better reflect the realities of police driving so we can work towards the very best protection for officers.”
However, lawyer Mark Aldred pointed out that the DPP guidance had already been changed to reflect the need for protection, in conjunction with the Federation a few years ago. “It’s not about the guidance. Officers don’t get charged with running a red light – if something happens, it gets dressed up as dangerous or careless driving, and that’s the problem. The issue with guidance is it’s just that, guidance.”
Tim Rogers agreed, saying that expanding the DPP guidance was a good interim measure, but needed to be treated as a step towards an eventual legislation change: “We need for officers to have their skills and training recognised in a legal context.”
Mr Rogers said it was a case of Groundhog Day, with the call for changes and better protection having been made for many years. “We welcome Chief Constable Bangham’s commitment to work with us on this important issue. It cannot be right that officers up and down the country are vulnerable to prosecution just for doing what they have been trained to do.”